Buying your first sound system for your TV can be a bit tricky. Go for a very cheap sound bar or 2.1-channel speaker system and you might not be contented with the audio quality or non-existent feature set. Aim too high and you might end up with a massive sound system that is difficult to set up and sucks up a lot of electricity. The big names in the home audio industry are doing the best they can in creating a range of products with some being priced higher but have specific features that justify that price. The Onkyo LS3100 is a good example because it is just a 2.1-channel speaker system with a $499 price tag. You’ll have to get down to the finer details to discover exactly what separates this sound system from the other competitors.
All of the components included in the LS3100 are pretty compact. The LAP-301 component serves as the sound system controller and it is small since it uses digital amplifiers eliminating the need for large heat sinks. This is the unit you would probably want to hide away in your home theater rack unless you need quick access to the buttons on top. All the buttons you have to work with are the volume buttons, Bluetooth/TV button and power button. There are also small light indicators shown above the power and Bluetooth buttons so you can quickly see the statuses of the unit.
The rear panel features various ports which need to be plugged in to be integrated with the rest of the system. The 4 speaker out terminals show that the satellite speakers are not wireless. There are also digital optical and coaxial jacks along with an analog audio in jack for TV connectivity. The controller can be mounted to the wall as well but you need to buy the appropriate screw.
The pair of speakers that come with the package are small and have a nice curved design. But these speakers have a couple of hidden tricks which opens up more installation possibilities. The package comes with 2 stands that you can naturally attach to the satellite speakers. But the unique aspect is the fact that each speaker has 4 slots for the stand. 2 of the slots are laid out horizontally so you have a couple of angles to choose from. The other 2 slots are vertical allowing you to stand these speakers upright as well. The stands themselves can be mounted on the wall giving you even more flexibility in guiding the direction of the sound. The subwoofer is understandably the largest component of the package but it is at least wireless so you can place the subwoofer anywhere you like.
Bluetooth connectivity is a must-have feature in sound bars today because more and more people enjoy using their favorite online streaming services like Spotify and Pandora on their mobile device. Some people even prefer storing their music collection in their phones. The sound system controller of the Onkyo LS3100 has the built-in Bluetooth functionality making it easy to listen to any stored or streamed music on the 2.1-channel sound system. You need to pair the device with the controller just like any other Bluetooth device and you are all ready to go. Even the most basic phones and laptops with Bluetooth connectivity are capable of sending music directly to the LS3100.
The controller is also special in the sense that it can recognize a wide variety of TV remote controls. Several big brands like Samsung, Panasonic, LG and Sony are supported out of the box so you can immediately use the remote control to adjust the volume of the speaker system. Because of the direct connection to the TV, the state of the speaker system can also reflect the state of the TV so you don’t have to manually turn on or off the TV and the Onkyo LS3100 separately. If the remote control isn’t supported, you can let the control unit learn from your remote control. The LS3100 features its own remote control as well. You might prefer using this remote control if you prefer something thinner and more compact and you want easy access to the volume controls, subwoofer controls, input selection and sound mode toggle.
While the satellite speakers of the Onkyo LS3100 are a bit small in size, each speaker actually has a pair of 2-inch drivers which allows the speaker system to sound a lot louder and fuller than other small speakers. If you take advantage of the flexibility of the stands and wireless nature of the subwoofer, you can get even better results.
The secret behind the impressive audio quality doesn’t rest on the hardware alone. The LS3100 is equipped with SRS technology allowing you to pick a special mode that makes the stereo sound a lot more natural. This should enhance any type of content but you do get a chance to make some minor adjustments to the quality. For instance, if you want clearer voice dialogs, you can switch to the dialog mode which specifically enhances the clarity of voices.
The speaker system will also automatically enter standby mode if the system stays idle for 10 minutes. As a whole, the system is rated at 50 watts so it shouldn’t consume much electricity under heavy usage. But the auto-standby mode feature should contribute to more power savings.
The Onkyo LS3100 is an amazing little system and can be considered as a great alternative for a pricey sound bar. The 2.1-channel system does take some extra steps in setting up especially if you will consider wall mounting but you will get far better results than even a very good sound since the satellites can be placed just about anywhere. If you don’t need a 5.1-channel speaker system, the LS3100 is $499 worth spending. But it would be even better if Onkyo can come up with a way to make the satellites wireless as well so you have full freedom in making use of the great hardware powering this impressive and compact speaker system.
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